10/09/2012 04:35 pm ET Updated Dec 09, 2012

Great Universities Provide Dynamic Leadership in a Changing World

An editorial published recently in Toledo's local daily newspaper, The Blade, focused on the new reality that higher education is facing.

"Rising costs, declining state and federal aid, lagging enrollment, and poor retention and graduation rates make this a challenging time for America's public colleges and universities. How they respond will determine what higher education will look like in the rest of the 21st century."

The editorial pointed out that in our respective annual addresses to our universities, my colleagues Dr. Mary Ellen Mazey of Bowling Green State University and Dr. Gordon Gee of Ohio Start University are joining UT in recognizing the fundamental importance of higher education as an economic engine for a region and for our nation.

The University of Toledo has partnered directly with the economic development organization the Regional Growth Partnership as part of a joint venture to commercialize University research. We are nearing a decade of focused incubation efforts for alternative energy, bio-tech and technology-based start-up firms that have generated dozens of companies and hundreds of well-paying jobs.

In 2006, UT created its own not-for-profit economic development arm and as The Blade notes in its editorial, the idea is catching on:

"Toward that end, OSU has opened an office for technology commercialization. Mr. Gee said that it will improve lives, while monetizing university research and innovation. OSU, like UT, also plans to become something of a venture capitalist."

Societal forces are changing the ways we look at higher education. The academic experience of a student starting college today will look very different than that of a student who started as recently as a decade ago. There will be more experiential learning, a greater focus on internships and a classroom experience that increasingly is likely to be flipped around.

The interaction among and between faculty and students is why this university and any great university exists. In a centuries old tradition and in a rapidly changing world, this constant remains: We exist as an institution to foster and facilitate these relationships.